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The San Francisco 49ers have a 6-1 record, and they haven’t even hit the easy part of their schedule yet. Photo by Jeff Lewis By Jason LewisSentinel Sports Editor
Steelers are far from doneThe Pittsburgh Steelers looked old and slow in their Week 1 blowout loss to the Baltimore Ravens, who dominated the game 35-7. The word was that too many Steeler players were passed their prime, and that it was going to be a long season for them. Well the long season just allowed them to right the ship, and at 6-2, they are in a position to avenge their loss to the Ravens this coming Sunday and extend their first place lead in the AFC North. The Ravens looked like the best team in the AFC early on, but after looking horrible in a 12-7 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars and having to come back for a victory against the Arizona Cardinals this past Sunday, the Ravens are not looking so hot, while the Steelers 25-17 victory over the New England Patriots shows that they may be the team to beat in the AFC. The Steelers held Patriots quarterback Tom Brady to a season low 198 passing yards, but it was not from great defense, it was from a ball control passing offense. The Steelers won the time of possession battle 39:22 to 20:38, and they mostly did it because of their success on third downs. They converted 10 of 16 third downs, while the Patriots only completed three of 10. The Steelers had 29 first downs in the game, compared to the Patriots 19. That allowed the Steelers to have 78 offensive plays, compared to the Patriots 50, which kept Brady and the Patriots high scoring offense off of the field. The Steelers have tradionally been a run first team, but now they are controlling the clock by passing the ball. Patriots have become the old Manning ColtsWhen the Patriots were winning Super Bowls they were doing it by playing great on defense, they ran the ball, and they did not make mistakes passing the ball. During that time the Indianapolis Colts were a pass it all the time team who played no defense. Led by quarterback Peyton Manning, the Colts lit up the scoreboard, but when it matter the most in the playoffs, they always came up short to a more physical Patriots team. Well the Patriots are looking a lot like those Colts teams. Over the past few years Brady has filled up the passing stats sheet at a historic rate. They have scored points like crazy, but when was the last time they won a playoff game? That would be 2007, the year they went 16-0 and set all kind of passing and scoring records. But when it mattered the most in the Super Bowl, the New York Giants, a grind it out and play tough defense team, just like the Patriots were when they won three Super Bowls, dropped the hammer on them. The Patriots have become what the Colts have been for years. A team that’s driven by a quarterback who is trying to be the greatest ever, but that is not the formula that won them Super Bowls. It is a formula that has led to post season losses, just like it did for years with the Colts. The Patriots are 2nd in passing offense, but they are 18th in rushing offense, and their defense is just horrible. Dead last in total defense and dead last in passing defense. That sounds a lot like those Colts teams. Peyton Manning for MVPIt really cannot happen, but it is obvious that Colts quarterback Peyton Manning is the most valuable player in the NFL. With Manning the Colts won 10+ games a season for the past nine years in a row, and 11 out of the last 12 seasons. But this one season without him, they cannot win a single game. It is hard to believe that any other player in the league would have that much influence on their team’s win/loss record. Brady does not affect the bottom line like that. When he went down with a season ending knee injury in the first half of the first game of the 2008 season, the Patriots went on to win 11 games with Matt Cassel at quarterback, and he had not started a game since high school. If Manning were healthy and playing this entire season, the Colts would be on their way to another 10+ win season, instead, they are in the “suck for Luck” race. And it would not be surprising if they became the third NFL team to go winless through an entire season. 49ers are two wins from the Super BowlIt may sound weird to say it, but at this point the San Francisco 49ers have the NFC West wrapped up, and it would be hard to believe that they would not win enough games to lock up one of the top two spots in the NFC playoffs. The 49ers play in the worst division in the NFL, but they have compiled their 6-1 record outside of their division for the most part. So far they have only played one game against an NFC West opponent. In the second half of the season they have five games against the Arizona Cardinals and St. Louis Rams, who have only won one game each, and against the Seattle Seahawks, who have only won two games. The 49ers do have tough games against the Giants, Ravens, and Steelers, but at this point it would be hard to think that they would win less than 12 games this season. Eagles may not be done yetThe Philadelphia Eagles looked like they were toast after a 1-4 start, but after winning their last two games after losing four in a row, they may be able to save their season. If the Eagles can get to 4-4 at midseason, which would mean that they would have to beat the Chicago Bears on Monday night, then they would set themselves up in a position to make a good run at the playoffs in the second half of the season. If they go 6-2 in the second half, that would give them a 10-6 record, which normally gives a team a playoff berth. The Eagles can catch the Giants in the standings, but if they do not, they are still in a position to get the wild card spot if they finish the season strong. The Detroit Lions are trailing the Green Bay Packers by two games, and they will probably get one of the wild card spots. The other wild card spot is pretty much wide open.Do not count on the Dallas Cowboys to get that spot. They are on the verge of imploding. And the Washington Redskins have fallen apart. The Bears will be in contention, so the Eagles can do themselves a great service by beating them on Monday. That leaves the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Atlanta Falcons. It will be a great race in the second half of the season to see who gets in the playoffs. Raiders in first place after getting blown outIt sounds weird, but it is true. The last time the Oakland Raiders took the field they were blown out at home by the Kansas City Chiefs, 28-0. And now they are in a first place tie in the AFC West. The Raiders did not play this past weekend, but when the Chiefs knocked off the San Diego Chargers on Monday night, it created a three-way tie between the three teams. It may not be the best way to get into first place, but what ever gets you there, take it.
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